Names mean things, and the aim of the IUPAC is to make sure that the name of any particular pure substance be unambiguous. Of course, if one wants a unique identifier, then a numeric index will suffice. The CAS registry number is the favorite such index.
But IUPAC nomenclature has a further aim: to assign to each pure substance a name that conveys both the proportions of chemical elements present and the arrangement of atoms of those elements at the most elementary level--and even to the behavior of electrons that form the covalent bonds that hold molecules and polyatomic ions together.
IUPAC nomenclature is by no means perfect, which is why it cannot supplant the CAS registry system altogether. Furthermore, some of the larger, more complex molecules would be very difficult to read or even to pronounce, which is why many organic compounds (especially drugs) are better known by their common or "generic" names.
History of Nomenclature as a Discipline
IUPAC nomenclature by Wikipedia contains a treatment of the history of the development of systematized nomenclature for pure substances. Briefly, this development began in earnest after Antoine Laurent Lavoisier first distinguished elements from compounds, thus recognizing that these are two distinct classes of pure substances.
IUPAC's nomenclature systems
IUPAC has distinct nomenclature systems for organic (carbon-containing) and inorganic (non-carbon-containing) compounds. More broadly, IUPAC publishes a large series of color-coded books that cover various aspects of the naming of pure substances and other quantities important to chemistry.
The Gold Book
The IUPAC Compendium of Chemical Terminology took its common name of "Gold Book" from its first chief editor, Victor Gold. It is a general source book of chemical terminology definitions.
The Green Book
Quantities, Units and Symbols in Physical Chemistry is primarily a dictionary of accepted systems of measurement of physical quantities, and the units of such measurement.
The Red Book
This is IUPAC's definitive dictionary of Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry.
The Blue Book
This is IUPAC's definitive dictionary of Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry.
The Purple Book
This is the IUPAC Compendium of Macromolecular Nomenclature. This concerns the naming of molecules of protein size or larger.
The Orange Book
The IUPAC Compendium of Analytical Nomenclature lays down the rules for analytical calculations, beginning with the fundamental precepts behind such calculations.
The Silver Book
The IUPAC Compendium of Terminology and Nomenclature of Properties in Clinical Laboratory Sciences is relatively new to the IUPAC colored-book series. Issued in 1995, it contains recommendations for naming substances and properties in a hospital or other clinical laboratory.
The White Book
This is IUPAC's compendium of Biochemical Nomenclature and Related Documents. The Silver Book is closely related to this publication.
- IUPAC nomenclature by Wikipedia.
- The IUPAC Colored Book Series Catalog by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
- Principles of Chemical Nomenclature: a Guide to IUPAC Recommendations. Leigh, G.J.; Favre, H.A. and Metanomski, W.V. Blackwell Science, 1998 ISBN 0-86542-6856
- Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd edition. McNaught, A.D. and Wilkinson, A. Blackwell Science, 1997 ISBN 0-86542-6848
- Quantities, Units and Symbols in Physical Chemistry, 2nd edition. Mills, I.; Cvitas, T.; Homann, K.; Kallay, N. and Kuchitsu, K. Blackwell Science, 1993 ISBN 0-63203-5838
- Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry - IUPAC Recommendations 2005. Connelly, N.G, Damhus, T., Hartshorn, R.M., and Hutton, A.T. The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2005 ISBN 0-85404-438-8
- A Guide to IUPAC Nomenclature of Organic Compounds (recommendations 1993). Panico, R.; Powell, W.H. and Richer, J-C. Blackwell Science, 1993 ISBN 0-63203-4882
- Corrections to the above published in Pure Appl. Chem., Vol. 71, No. 7, pp.1327-1330, 1999
- Compendium of Macromolecular Nomenclature, 1st edition. Metanomski, W.V. Blackwell Science, 1991 ISBN 0-63202-8475
- Compendium of Analytical Nomenclature (definitive rules 1997), 3rd edition. Inczedy, J.; Lengyel, T. and Ure, A.M. Blackwell Science, 1998 ISBN 0-86542-6155
- Compendium of Terminology and Nomenclature of Properties in Clinical Laboratory Sciences (recommendations 1995) Rigg, J.C.; Brown, S.S.; Dybkaer, R. and Olesen, H. Blackwell Science, 1995 ISBN 0-86542-6120
- Biochemical Nomenclature and Related Documents. Liébecq, C. - IUPAC-IUBMB Joint Commission on Biochemical Nomenclature and Nomenclature Commission of IUBMB. 2nd edition, Portland Press, 1992. ISBN 1-85578-005-4